A large Israeli drone crashed on the southern coastal plain of Israel Sunday. The drone was a Heron TP, built by Israeli Aerospace Industries, and flown by the Israeli Air Force. Apparently the drone was being test flown when it crashed after pilots gave it commands that were beyond its capabilities. Ynet reports that a wing fell off the drone during the flight from the drone base at Tel Nof Air Base.
The Heron TP, also known as the ‘Eitan’ has a wingspan of 26 metres and costs up to $10 million each. It is a long range drone, believed capable of spying on places as far away as Sudan or Iran, from its bases in Israel. It is known to have been used in the 2009 attack on Gaza, in an undisclosed capacity.
Drones have a very high crash rate, in part because the lack an immediate pilot presence and rely on wireless communication networks that are sometime more fragile that required. Disarmingman maintains a database of crashes of large drones in the past few years.
Residents of areas where drones are tested often object to overflights by the noisy air vehicles. The issue caused a controversy in northern Israel a few years ago when British military officials discovered that the Watchkeeper drone being built for them by Elbit Systems was being tested on occupied land in the Golan Heights. The Brits insisted that the test flights occur in Israel, not over occupied land, causing a stir of objections from Israelis living under the test flights. Likewise the people of southern Wales have objected to the noisy test flights of the Watchkeeper drones being test flown from Parc Aberporth.
Tel Nof air base, once known as Ekron Air Base, was once the main air base for the British in Palestine. Now it one of Israel’s main air bases, and is used as a base for attacks on targets in the Occupied Territories. While Israel discloses little information about its use of drones, it is believed that Tel Nof may the main air base for the Heron TP drones.
Heron TP’s have been touted as a weapon against Iran, where they might be used for surveillance, to jam communications, or even carry weapons. With a payload of 1000 kg, the Heron TP could be used to carry a variety of arms.